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Making a Difference Mondays, September 30

Monday, September 30, 2013

Donor Spotlight: Jakhui Duren
Human Resources Assistant-Benefits

Born in Suwon, South Korea, Jakhui Duren has travelled half the globe to settle in Polk County’s Lake Wales community. Polk State College is in her blood, as her father attended classes at the College before he joined the United States Air Force. She now works in Polk State’s Human Resources Department, where she truly enjoys her work. She says the people she works with and the College’s involvement in the community are her favorite aspects of working for Polk State. Located in an office just across a hallway from the Foundation, she certainly sees and hears her share of its activities on behalf of students.

Jakhui says the reason she gives to the Polk State Foundation is because she believes that it creates opportunities for students to achieve their goals and further their dreams in education, and these results create endless possibilities for them after they receive a degree. She adamantly believes that if what she contributes helps just one person, that it really does make a difference. “It’s very rewarding to see some of the stories about how the Polk State College Foundation has helped people achieve not only their educational goals, but also how these opportunities have also impacted individuals’ lives in general,” she says. “I feel like I’m in a position to help, and it’s the right thing to do.”


Alumni Spotlight: Janie Hughes
From Migrant Worker to Nursing Patients who are Fighting Cancer

Janie Hughes grew up in a family of fourteen children, the daughter of migrant workers. Growing up, she picked oranges, tomatoes, watermelons, and more, as her family travelled to different states for the varied picking seasons. Her future was clear—as soon as she turned sixteen, she knew she would drop out of school and work full time in the fields. “My family struggled and we were very poor. We never celebrated Thanksgiving or Christmas. We just worked all the time,” recalls Janie.

At the age of thirteen, her father passed away, leaving her mother to raise the five youngest children on her own. In order to maintain survivor benefits, the children had to stay enrolled in school. Through this mandate, Janie was able to become, and still remains, the first person in her family to graduate from high school.

While in high school, a next-door neighbor encouraged her to focus on studying and getting good grades. Also during this time, she decided that she wanted to become a nurse. She earned her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certificate and joined a Health Occupations club while still in high school.

After high school, her mother expected her to return to the fields full time, but Janie had a desire to go to college. According to Janie, “I persuaded my mother to let me go to school and work in the fields. I have always been a slow learner, so I struggled to work and take classes as time allowed.”

In 1991, Janie got married and started a family, and she stopped taking classes. “At some point, my husband reminded me that when I met him, I was at Polk State. He encouraged me to go back to school,” recalls Janie. She was accepted into the Nursing Program in 1996.

While still in the Nursing Program, her husband was in a serious semi-truck accident. Janie notes that during this time, her mentor, Dr. Annette Hutcherson, and others rallied around her. They helped her family during the months when her husband was recovering from the accident and unable to work. She became eligible for a special program that paid for tuition and books, allowing her to finish school and graduate with her AS in Nursing in December 1999. She then took her State Board Exam to become an RN.

Less than one year after graduating, Janie, her husband, and their two daughters were in a car accident. Sadly, her husband was killed in the accident and she nearly lost both of her daughters. Recalls Janie, “For three months, my daughters and I were at the Tampa General Hospital. My mother never left my side during this time, and when I asked her how I could raise my daughters alone, she emphatically told me that I could do it. Knowing that she had raised my siblings and me without my father and without any formal education gave me the strength to get through the dark times after the accident.”

Today, Janie is an oncology infusion nurse at the Moffitt Cancer Center. She recently celebrated ten years of employment, and she works at a new branch of the facility near the Tampa International Airport.

A new initiative was implemented at Moffitt to encourage nurses to return to school to obtain bachelor’s degrees. When the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program became accredited at Polk State, Janie decided that the time was right to return to school. “Getting my BSN will open the door to more options in the nursing field and allow me to advance at Moffitt. The advanced degree will also allow me to explore different specialties within nursing.”

Janie enrolled in the BSN Program in the Fall 2013 semester. She plans to continue working at Moffitt while attending classes. As she points out, “Even though I live in Brandon, Polk State was my first choice for obtaining my BSN. The faculty treats students like members of the family, and it’s an excellent school. While it is a little challenging taking classes after being out of school for so long, the memory of my husband and mother pushes me to work harder to accomplish my goals.”

Janie feels that Polk State College will help her achieve another important goal in her life, and that there is a special synergy between them. “I received my associate’s degree from Polk Community College, and I will get my next degree, my bachelor’s, at Polk State College,” she explained. “The College and I have progressed and evolved together—it doesn’t get any better than that. Maybe one day I can get my Master’s in Nursing at Polk University.”


Student Spotlight: Martin Luna
Scholarobotics Student

Most eight year olds would likely not be excited at receiving a gift such as a DVD set titled Anatomy for Beginners. Yet for Martin Luna, who remembers being fascinated with medicine and science from an early age, this was a valuable resource to support his future plans to become a doctor.

In the fifth grade, Martin received the Fancelli Family Future Leaders Scholarship from Garden Grove Elementary. This award set the stage for Martin to become the first person in his family to go to college. “I always knew that I wanted to go to college, and would have gone even without this scholarship. But receiving this scholarship helped to ease my parents’ minds on how to pay for school.”

In January 2013, Martin transferred from Lake Region High School to Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School and also enrolled in college-level courses. According to Martin, “Both the faculty and staff at Chain of Lakes Collegiate are wonderful. The move here has exceeded my expectations. I find everyone to be very helpful, and I have had many opportunities to explore my career field that I would not have had at another school.”

One of those opportunities is the chance to participate in the Scholarobotics Program. Through this program, students get to observe doctors from Winter Haven Hospital using the Da Vinci Robot. Martin, who plans to either focus on sports medicine or gastroenterology, has also been able to use the device to develop and test procedures. Notes Martin, “The Da Vinci surgical system allows doctors to perform microsurgery, which makes an operation safer and uses a smaller incision, both of which reduce healing time for the patient.”

Martin is part of a group that will be traveling in November to the Robotic Assisted Microsurgical & Endoscopic Society (RAMSES) Symposium in Strasbourg, France. Martin and his team will present their project findings regarding robotic irrigation. The team created a robot that could irrigate an opening during surgery. The Polk State College Foundation is assisting with some of the expenses for the trip.

Martin’s parents have been instrumental in supporting his goal of going to medical school. As the first in his family to go to college, both of his parents have worked hard to provide for him and his two sisters. In particular, Martin credits his father with pushing him to follow his dreams and sacrificing to make sure he will have a better life. After graduation in 2014, Martin plans to major in medicine at a Florida university.

Executive Director’s Greetings

Greetings Colleagues!

I see examples of incredible generosity every day—these are emphatic testaments that as employees, we stand firmly behind Polk State College’s mission to provide affordable educational opportunities for Polk State College students. I am especially inspired when funding falls short, as our community always pulls together to seal the gap. It is in times like these that faculty, staff, and students collaborate to seek creative ways to provide for students, professional enhancement, and/or the benefit of the College as a whole. Some prime examples of successful initiatives are the My Brother’s Keeper Program, the innumerable grant awards for professional development and growth of our programs for students, and the Clear Springs Advanced Technology Center. I also admire the tremendous fundraising efforts of the Fine Arts, Athletics, and Allied Health departments, as well as the many student collaborative activities.

Of recent note, an innovative fundraising opportunity through the 2013 Scholarobotics Academy has been initiated, offering once-in-a-lifetime
opportunities for select Polk State students. The Scholarbotics Academy offers accelerated educational opportunities for high school students who are interested in
medicine. These students earn college credit (i.e., Medical Terminology and Pathophysiology) while they are being introduced to basic incision and suturing skills required in surgical procedures. Additionally, students conduct STEM-based research in medicine and robotics. This unique program provides scholars with face-to-face lectures along with hybrid coursework, online assignments, hands-on anatomy instruction via clay models, and animal dissections. Scholarobotic scholars have also conducted STEM-based research projects at the Winter Haven Hospital using a medical robotic system, the Da Vinci Robotic Arm. Dr. Sijo Parekattil and Dr. Ahmet Gudeloglu from the Center for Urology at the Winter Haven Hospital are overseeing the four Scholarobotics Academy research projects.

Fifteen Polk State Scholars have been invited to present their research findings at the 2013 Robotic Assisted Microsurgical & Endoscopy Society (RAMSES) Symposium in Strasbourg, France in November 2013. The Polk State College Foundation has established an account to assist the students with their travel expenses to the symposium. Dr. Suzanne Halverson and Instructional Technology Specialist Todd Thuma have created a special video and informational link utilizing the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. This initiative marks the first time funds will be solicited for a Foundation project in this manner. The link can be accessed here.

I invite the many members of our generous Polk State community to consider contributing to this exciting opportunity for high performing collegiate students. To learn more about the Scholarobotics Academy, please read the article available here.

Again and again, thank you for all you do to elevate the College, our students, and the community.

All the very best,


Tracy M. Porter
Executive Director